CaP Collection of the Month

November 2022: Beamish, The Living Museum of the North

1900s Town Street at Beamish Museum; image courtesy of Beamish, The Living Museum of the North

Beamish is an open-air living museum which brings the history of Northeast England to life with buildings, street scenes and industry from the 1920s to the 1950s.

Horse light to be attached to the ankle. Image courtesy of Beamish, The Living Museum of the North

The history of policing is also represented at Beamish with the museum working with the North East Police History Society to explore 1950s crime and punishment, and an Edwardian policeman can regularly be seen patrolling the streets of the 1900s town. In 2003 it was donated the society’s collection recording the history of Durham Constabulary and details and images from this collection can be found on the museum’s People’s Collection.

Of particular interest to CaP readers is that the museum has plans to rebuild a pair of police houses from Heworth, Gateshead which are due to be opened during 2023. They will be typical of post Second World War police houses, following a pattern of two-family houses flanking a flat-roofed office in the middle. The police felt it was important to have a presence on new estates being built in the 1950s, and often tried to secure corner locations for new building although the Police Authority had to purchase the land they wanted to build on from local authorities. Post Second World War, County Durham built more police houses than most other police forces in the country.

Police sergeant at desk. Image courtesy of Beamish, The Living Museum of the North.

These police houses were different from other homes: all the internal doors were lockable from the inside in case of an incident, and there was access to a telephone in the police office which would be moved to one of the houses at night in case of emergencies.

Tyne and Wear, Philadelphia “backyard” police station: view from back lane. Note sliding window for enquirers. Image courtesy of Beamish, The Living Museum of the North.
Tyne & Wear Philadelphia “backyard” police station: looking into office from back yard. Image courtesy of Beamish, The Living Museum of the North.

Beamish Museum is keen to hear from people with memories of policing in the 1950s, particularly anyone who was in the police force, grew up in a police house during that decade, or from protesters or people who had dealings with the police. Please email Connor Emerson, Keeper of Social History.

You can find out more about Beamish by visiting their site on our CaP directory.

You can find CaP’s previous Collections of the Month on the pages below. If you would like your collection to be featured please contact us